Another page in the calendar has flipped over and the clocks have hopped back an hour, so it’s definitely time to dust off the casserole dish and make a hearty cottage pie. If you don’t know what a cottage pie is, it’s basically a shepherd’s pie, but made with beef mince instead of lamb – because for some reason or another, lamb and I just don’t get on. The beef version is every bit as tasty, in my opinion, and it’s a little bit cheaper to make.
I’m sure most people have an old family recipe for cottage pie, or at least their own way of doing it, but I made one recently and thought I might as well throw my recipe into the ring.
- 1 large packet beef mince
- 2 onions
- 6 carrots
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Knorr beef stock pot
- salt and pepper
- a pot of good mashing potatoes, such as Maris Pipers
- knob butter
- splash milk or cream
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- a few gratings of nutmeg
- 200g mature cheddar
- In a large frying pan on a high heat, brown off the mince in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan and risking it boiling. Colour = flavour! Reserve each browned batch in a bowl or plate to the side for the meantime.
- Finely chop the onions, grate the garlic and chop the carrots into quarter discs, and cook these off over allow to medium heat in the pan, until the onions have started to turn translucent.
- Transfer into a large saucepan or casserole pot and add the tomato puree. Cook that out for a couple of minutes, mixing into the vegetables.
- Add the mince back into the pot and add the herbs, cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce and stock pot, plus enough water to just cover the mince. Put a lid on the pot and allow to simmer over a low heat, stirring every now and then. If it's getting too dry, add a little more water, but we're not going to add anything to thicken it later, so don't go too mad.
- The amount of mashed potato you will need for the top will depend how big your casserole dish is and how deep you like your potato, so it's easiest to work that out by eye. Just start peeling and quartering your potatoes and stop when you think they'll make enough mash. It's not very scientific I'm afraid but it's how I do it!
- Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender when prodded with a knife. Drain the water out then add the butter, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mustard and mash until creamy and lump-free. That can be set aside with the lid on until you're ready to construct the pie.
- The mince should be given at least 45 minutes to simmer, but an hour and a half would be better.
- When you're ready to construct the pie, preheat the oven to 200c and grab a nice oblong or square oven safe casserole dish. Spread the mince into the bottom then carefully layer the mash on top, smoothing it out gently with a fork.
- When it's all nice and smooth, drag a fork through the top in furrows like a ploughed field. This helps to make the pie nice and compacted, but also gives the surface of the mash some texture, which will help it to crisp up in the oven.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top and then put back in the oven for at least half an hour, or until the mince is bubbling and the top is turning golden brown.
- Serve up with some lovely green vegetables and maybe some Branston pickle!
If you liked this British classic, why not try Charles’ Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings?